Helping youths was businessman's great joy


POSTED: Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The first clubhouse that Charles Cooke Spalding built 33 years ago to give boys and girls a safe place to gather off the streets will be the site of a celebration of his life Saturday.

Spalding, a business executive and philanthropist, died of cancer at his home in Waikiki on March 15 at the age of 89. He was a descendant of two missionary families who left legacies of community service, much of which benefited Hawaii's children. His great-grandparents were Amos Starr Cooke and wife Juliette Montague; and William Harrison Rice and Sophia Hyde.

Spalding had specified that services be held at the Charles C. Spalding Clubhouse of the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii because, of all his community involvement, helping youth was dearest to his heart, said his son, Charles “;Cary”; Spalding Jr. of Woodland Hills, Calif.

“;He always talked about it,”; he added. Coming from a privileged family, “;he could see quite plainly that not everyone had what he had in life.”;

His father was “;a gentle, kind man (who) put people first ... a champion of the underdog,”; Cary Spalding said.

The senior Spalding, a Punahou School and Yale University graduate, was assistant secretary at C. Brewer & Co. for most of his years at the company, from 1946 to 1961. He was president from 1962 to 1967 at Hawaiian Insurance & Guaranty Co., and self-employed after that.

The Boys and Girls Club, originally called the Boys Club of Honolulu, received its charter in 1960, but it took 16 years before it actually opened its doors. It was a struggle to raise money and construct what was such a pioneering project in those days. The club has 12 locations on Oahu and Kauai today, a release said.

Spalding also broke the rules by allowing girls to join the club, said David Nakada, the club's executive director since 1977. In 1983, the Boys Clubs of America presented Spalding with its highest Silver Keystone Award for extraordinary service to youth.

Spalding “;took me under his wing”; and “;always treated me with dignity,”; said Nakada, who described himself as a youth similar to the at-risk kids the club was trying to help. “;I had a hard time graduating from high school (and) used alcohol and tobacco,”; Nakada said.

Nakada was 27 and awestruck when his mentor took him to lunch at the prestigious, private Pacific Club, which once banned Asians from membership. Nakada kept walking a step or two behind Spalding to show respect, but Spalding told him to stop: “;You're with me. You don't have to do that.”;

Spalding introduced him to all his friends, the “;pillars of the community in business and society,”; in such a way that made Nakada feel like an equal. “;I was just so taken by that. It always stayed with me — how he treated people with respect,”; Nakada said.

Spalding is survived by his second wife, Joan Baldwin. He has two sons, Charles Spalding Jr. and Stephen Milbank of Vermont, by his first wife, the late Nancy Milbank. He also has a stepson, Arne Gordon Westly Jr. of Hauula.

Services will start at 3:30 p.m. at the clubhouse on the grounds of Washington Intermediate School at 1704 Waiola St. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the BGCH, 1523 Kalakaua Ave. No. 202, Honolulu, HI 96826, or online at www.bgch.com.